After Charlton’s birthday party I was no longer anonymous. I didn’t have friends yet really, (other than the irrepressible Caroline), but some of the other Mums now know who I am. They smiled politely as I drop Luke at prep, lugging Layla in her capsule with me. It was becoming harder to be coy or look busy, and as Caroline continually told me it was time I made more friends.
It was a bright Monday morning when I made my move. Luke was shabbily dressed, as I had once assumed all four year olds were, but I made an effort with my own appearance. Up until recently that meant brushing my hair, but today it meant newly fatigued jeans and a fresh white t-shirt, (tucked in), with ballet flats. So far I had found myself either woefully under dressed or tackily over dressed for all of my run-ins with the Snobsville locals.
I was aiming for neat casual. Of course, being laden with two school bags, (one for homework and one for lunch), a four year old’s hand to hold and a newborn in a capsule I am not sure I projected an air of easy confidence. I was more flustered than care free and started to feel a trickle of sweat dripping down the small of my back. Why on earth was I nervous about talking to other mothers? In my few short weeks in Snobsville it never ceased to amaze me how easy it is to revert to childish insecurities in an unfamiliar environment.
One of the young childcare workers cooed over Layla as we entered through the gate and asked for a cuddle. I gratefully agreed and as Luke whizzed past to regale his friends with stories of Lego boxes conquered over the preceeding weekend, I took a deep breath and readied myself. I approached a group of Mums I recognised from the party. I’ve never been good at imagining people in their underwear when I am nervous. Besides in my imagination these women have perectly intimidating bodies draped perfectly in the type of La Perla lingerie I could never fill. Literally. So I reminded myself of Jason’s favourite phrase for a group of Snobsville Mums – a gaggle. For some reason that makes me giggle, and it put me surprisingly at ease.
As I approached the gaggle I could hear the conversation and scanned it for an entry point while simultaneously reminding myself of the names of the gaggle members. Elizabeth was talking.
“Well, you know Brian is in real Estate. Commercial mind you, but he still remembers a thing or two about residential. From back before he was successful, you know. Anyway, he tells me they are relocating to South Snobsville – the OTHER side of the tracks. They’ll lose value for sure. They’ll probably never recover financially, at least not enough to be able to make their way back to Snobsville proper.” South snobsville- I assume that’s was what Caroline called the Snobsville ghetto. Our house is right on the border.
“Is something wrong? I mean, is he in financial distress?” Sarah was almost giddy asking the question. I was still wondering which tracks separated Snobsville proper from South Snobsville. I couldn’t think of any. The way she was talking they may as well have been needle tracks.
Unpeterbed I butted in. “Is South Snobsville the same as Lower Snobsville? Or do you mean the ghetto?”
Blinking eyes and up down once over looks, scanning me. Probably trying to remember who I am and why I am dressed this way.
Brita came to my rescue once more. “Marley’s new here. We’re talking about Southies. The other side of the Suburb. Completely different school catchment. Lots of…townhouses, cheaper homes…”
The rest of the gaggle laughed and it was my turn to look blankly at them. It’s the same Suburb, the houses are beautiful and still terribly expensive, though a little less so than this part of the suburb. It was less light hearted than when Caroline had described it. I promised myself to process this new information later, brush off the error and soldier on. I waited for another opportunity.
The group turned back to Elizabeth. “Financial distress?” She was reminding them of where the conversation left off. “Well, who knows dear. He’s in the trades. You know how rocky that road can be! With the economy slowing down people aren’t renovating nearly as much. Just basic kitchen and bathroom stuff. I heard they may have to send Gabrielle to the local high school instead of the Ladies College. Such a shame, she’s a bright girl. She had a bright future I’m told.”
Brita made an effort to include me once more. I felt like kissing her. “You know what else Southies are famous for Marley?”
“Uh, no, I don’t. Haven’t really got the lay of the land just yet.”
The gaggle giggled once again and I felt as though I was about to be let in on an inside joke. I would have to tell Caroline when she finally arrived.
“Swingers!” Elizabeth could barely contain herself.
“Oh yes. I think someone mentioned it.”
“Yep. Genuine, sixty something, randy old swingers.”’ Now I was intrigued.
“You mean like-“
She cut me off. “There’s a house with a giant orange door out the front. Hasn’t been renovated in years. A giant Jacuzzi out the back, lots of parties, smooth music, strange noises in the night…”
“They’re sixty something?”
“Yep. Or something like that. South Snobsville was the trendiest new spot to live some years back. People who made their fortunes and moved here from all over – even the coast. It was nouveau riche hippy heaven and…well, you know what hippies are like!”
The gaggle became increasingly excited as Brita chimed in. “Southy is positively swarming with swingers. We call it the swinging south. We know about the orange door place, but I bet there are plenty of them all over.”
A woman I hadn’t met piped up. “Yes, the place with the lace curtains? If you drive past at night it has really soft pink lighting. It’s either swingers or a brothel.” It was on my street.
“No wonder property prices haven’t done so well there!” Elizabeth laughed at her own joke. The unknown member of the gaggle looked decidedly the least friendly. She sneered as the others laughed. I wondered if deep down she was disappointed not to be invited to swing herself.
Caroline sauntered over, late as always and looking perfectly casual. Not a hair out of place and relaxed as ever. “Hello ladies. Are you gossiping about us swinging Southies again?”
The unhappy gaggler looked down her nose at Caroline. “Are you off to Tuscany again this winter Caroline?”
“Yes Linda. In a few weeks.”
“You know, we were going to go, but I think Tuscany is so overdone as a holiday destination. It’s all about the Dalmation coast now.” She tried to mask her disdain but it was thinly veiled.
“Oh, well. For all the Chianti in Florence, Tuscany could never be done too many times for my liking!” Caroline’s reply was friendly but guarded. It seemed as though she was used to dealing with Linda.
“We’re taking our nanny this year. She’s specialises in educating bright youngsters. Kingston is gifted, you know, but still you can never be too careful. And it will give James and I some time to spend alone.”
“Oh, how romantic.” I could swear Caroline was rolling her eyes.
“Oh, no, not together! A plane trip with him will be long enough. I meant alone – on our own. Do you think Aiden will cope, missing prep I mean?” Caroline’s face resembled a fiercely protective lioness.
“Yes. There’s plenty for him to learn in Italy. The school of life, you know. Anyway girls, we must do a coffee catch up soon.”
The artful change of conversation worked beautifully. No Snobsville mum can resist an offer for a coffee catch up.
“Oh, I don’t drink coffee. ” I regretted it as soon as I said it, but Caroline didn’t miss a beat.
“Let’s go to the new place then. I hear they do boutique tea. Wednesday?”
The gaggle agreed, nodded their heads and scattered. As we walked away Caroline muttered to me.
“Oh. Is she a friend?”
“No dear. She used to be a wannabee. Now she’s one of us. She’s unpleasant.”
“Yes. Out of area. Lied to get her oldest into the public school, I think she used her in laws address. She always said she was from Snobsville but her post code was one suburb away. Then stumbled into a fortune, god knows how, and lives here for real. In Snobsville proper. She’s petitioning council for homes in Snobsville proper to have extra bins for hygiene reasons. Next she’ll be hosting charity functions.”
“Bring your game face on Wednesday. And don’t worry. I’ll be there on time.”
It appeared I had met Caroline’s match. I wondered if I made a good impression on her. It didn’t matter. I was beginning to feel like part of the gaggle anyway.